Reggaeting o Reggaetang

Speaking of the difference between hip-hop and reggaeton, there’s been a heated discussion over at Raquel’s reggaetonica, redrawing yet again the lines in the sand between the two genres and rehashing lots of tropes about Puerto Rico, blackness, hip-hop, and so on.

The debate was initiated by a polemic published last fall by a god named Sunez, editor of Lavoe Revolt. I find Sunez’s tone a little too pedantic for my tastes (and “musicological” his analysis is NOT; don’t get me started on his description of how hip-hop emerges from reggae), but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t raise good questions, as evidenced by the lively argument that ensues.

As for his wider points, I can see some merit in them, especially the critique of postcolonial “mental slavery” via the embrace of conspicuous consumption and degrading images of self/women, etc. But, really, that kind of criticism is not so different from the sort of stuff Stanley Crouch or Juan Williams say about hip-hop all the time. Much as I’m sympathetic to some of that, I guess my own pleasures listening to reggaeton and commercial hip-hop derive from a couple things: 1) the way that dance music, music that engages the body, serves as a kind of apolitical “politics” (an embrace of the sensual self that militates against the repression of our bodies in wider society); 2) the framing of conspicuous consumption as a militant stance re: enjoying the “good life” (flaunting symbols of wealth that have been denied to people of color for so long). In a sense, then, esp re: the latter point, I guess my position is kind of pragmatic / strategic. And overall, I suppose I do believe that the way such popular genres create communities holds some promise toward actual political mobilization, even if we haven’t seen much like that yet (tho the support for Obama among prominent rappers perhaps gestures that way).

I don’t feel the need to go through and debunk Sunez’s slandering of reggaeton point for point, especially since an anonymous commenter does a fine and thorough job of that. (Marisol is right to point out that the exchange becomes too much of a masculinist pissing contest and too “mired in issues of racial/cultural authenticity,” though I think Anonymous was simply seeking, in some sense, to playfully meet his interlocutor on some shared discursive ground.)

I have to chime in, though, along with Raquel & Anonymous, in defense of Tego. I guess I can understand how a dyed-in-the-wool New York rap fan might level such charges as —

Clearly put, [Tego Calderon] is an average MC (If he grew up in Brooklyn, he’d have no chance) who deliberately makes some sellout tracks to hustle his catalogue.

But that just doesn’t compute for me. And I can’t even claim to follow all the nuances of Tego’s deployment of Spanish, English, and old and new slanguage; I’m mostly reacting to flow when I listen to Tego. He’s an MC’s MC far as I’m concerned. I’ve weighed in on El Negro Calde here before, so I’ll save you my own treatises. I found the following pro-Tego jab by Anonymous to be both funny and spot-on —

I mean, if you can’t respect Tego’s technique maybe your Boricua Spanish needs a Windows Update, god.

For a little evidence, here’s some recent fuego from Tego, clowning on some clowns, no dembow needed. Love the line in the first verse which inspires the title of this post. Reggaeting o reggaetang? Dude can flip it flippant, seen? A little levity goes a long way.

Payaso (Part 2).mp3 – Tego Calderon ft. Chyno Nyno